Modern Agriculture Goes to College, By Brianna J. Schroeder

This spring, I was happy to be invited to speak to students at different events at Indiana University and at Purdue University. I traveled to West Lafayette in February for a pork industry career panel, and then to Bloomington in March to speak to several classes in the IU Kelley School of Business undergrad program. I can officially say the state of agriculture is in good hands.

At Purdue, the focus was on the many ways a graduate can play a role in the pork industry. We certainly need educated farmers and landowners. There is also a need for veterinarians, scientists, integrators, technicians, and yes…lawyers! Students had questions about what made the pork industry stand out as a career choice (cutting edge technology, fast-paced environment, dedicated work ethic, human interest, preserving land, changing regulatory scheme, and using inputs efficiently, among many other things). Recent graduates attended as well, and added to the conversation by discussing how their education prepared them for the “real world.”

My time at IU had a different look—I discussed the agricultural topics in the headlines with some upper level business classes. Students’ questions were focused on sustainability, business implications, and issues surrounding what is next for agriculture in all its forms. We talked about the North Carolina hog farm nuisance cases, the intent and purpose of the Right to Farm Act here in Indiana and elsewhere, California’s Proposition 12 (waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its opinion any day now), solar farms, and carbon sequestration and storage. The students proposed some challenging hypotheticals based on about Prop 12 and the Supreme Court’s pending decision and in general had great insight.

While it might be popular to blame Gen Z for a wide variety of societal messes, I am confident the students at Indiana and Purdue are prepared to go into the world and solve problems. I came away from my time with the college students recharged and with a new perspective on everything from Prop 12 to work-life balance in the ag sector. I can’t wait to see what is next for these rising stars.